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16-year-old Owasso student laid to rest after unexpected death

Dagny Benedict
Posted at 8:57 PM, Feb 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-21 10:34:16-05

OWASSO, Okla. — The death of 16-year-old Owasso student Nex Benedict is garnering national attention and calls for answers from the school district and local law enforcement.

Benedict died unexpectedly the day after a fight at school on Feb. 8. Owasso police said they are waiting on toxicology and autopsy reports before releasing a cause of death.

OPD said they are also interviewing staff and students about the incident, and once completed, they will recommend charges, if any, to the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office.

Whether it's friends, family or community members — they all want answers.

2 News has been working for over a week now to get those answers. Senior reporter Justin Ayer called Owasso police and Owasso Public Schools multiple times, and the response he got was almost identical every time — they're waiting on a ruling from the medical examiner before any further action can be taken.

The case is a tragedy, regardless. Former student Alexandria Davidson spoke with 2 News about Nex.

"[Nex was] someone I used to walk in the halls with," Davidson said. "Someone I could have been to class with is no longer a part of our lives."

Owasso Public Schools released a second statement on Feb. 20, nearly two weeks after the fight and provided some more details about what happened. The school said it's limited statements on the matter in an effort not to disrupt the police investigation.

OPS said there will be pieces to the story they can never share due to federal privacy laws, but they wanted to clear up misinformation surrounding the incident.

"We understand the importance of ensuring a safe and inclusive environment for all students and know that the information below doesn’t change the facts that a fight occurred on school grounds and a student passed away the next day," OPS said.

Here are the facts of the case that OPS provided:

  • On the afternoon of Feb. 7, 2024, a physical altercation occurred in a restroom at the Owasso High School West Campus.
  • Students were in the restroom for less than two minutes and the physical altercation was broken up by other students who were present in the restroom at the time, along with a staff member who was supervising outside of the restroom.
  • Once the altercation was broken up, all students involved in the altercation walked under their own power to the assistant principal’s office and nurse’s office.
  • District administrators began taking statements from the students present in the restroom and began contacting parents/guardians of the students involved in the physical altercation.
  • Following district protocols, each of the students involved in the altercation was given a health assessment by a district registered nurse. Per district protocols, students needing further support are transported to a medical facility either by ambulance or by a parent/guardian, depending on the severity of the injuries and preference of the parent/guardian. 
  • While it was determined that ambulance service was not required, out of an abundance of caution, it was recommended to one parent that their student visit a medical facility for further examination. 
  • Per district protocols, the parents/guardians of students involved in a physical altercation are notified and informed of the option to file a police report should they choose. Should they choose to file a police report, school resource officers are made available to the parents/guardians either at that time or they can schedule an appointment, if they choose, at a later date. These practices were followed during this incident.
  • Physical altercations between students are unacceptable. Any student/s engaging in such action, jeopardizing the safety of others, will receive disciplinary consequences. These consequences can include out-of-school suspension for a first offense. Due to federal privacy laws, we are unable to disclose the exact nature of disciplinary action taken against any student. That information can only be given to the parents/guardians of the student being disciplined. Any notion that the district has ignored disciplinary action toward those involved is simply untrue. 
  • Additional counseling services were provided to students at the high school on Feb. 9, and continue to be available for all students & staff.

"We understand that for many, additional questions remain, however these are the facts that we are able to communicate at this juncture," the school said. "The loss of a student, a member of the Ram Family and the Owasso community, is devastating. We recognize the impact that this event has had on the entire school community and it is our priority to foster an environment where everyone feels heard, supported, and safe. If there is ever a concern about student safety or well-being, please reach out to a teacher, counselor or principal at your child’s school. As we continue to mourn the loss of this student, our hearts go out to their family and they will continue to be in our prayers. We are here to support them and everyone who has been affected by this situation."

There was additional confusion initially surrounding the gender identity and name of the victim, but that was resolved after Sue Benedict, Nex's mother, released the following statement on Feb. 20. Nex was non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.

2 News initially reported the identity and gender given to us by family and law enforcement and worked to verify the correct identity as soon as we learned different. We don't report information on social media until we can independently confirm with those directly connected to a case.

"We at this time are thankful for the ongoing support and did not expect the love from everyone. We are sorry for not using their name correctly and as parents we were still learning the correct forms. Please do not judge us as Nex was judged, please do not bully us for our ignorance on the subject. Nex gave us that respect and we are sorry in our grief that we overlooked them. I lost my child, the headstone will have correct name of their choice. The rest of monies will go to other children dealing with the right to be who they feel they are, in Nex Benedict’s name. God bless."

Benedict's mother said Nex was an animal lover - especially with pet Zeus, the cat. Family said they loved to cook and would often make up recipes. Benedict was also a straight-A student.

"[They were a] tough, but a great kid," mother Sue Benedict said at the funeral service. "I loved [Nex] so much."

Memorial donations can be made in memory of Benedict to Bikers Against Child Abuse or this GoFundMe page.

A candlelight vigil is being held in Owasso on Feb. 25 to honor Nex.

2 News will continue to follow this story as we have from the beginning.

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